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Seattle has long history of interesting hockey nicknames

Metropolitans, Bombers among teams that have played in home of NHL's newest franchise

by Stan Fischler / Special to

Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler writes a weekly scrapbook for Fischler, known as "The Hockey Maven," shares his knowledge, humor and insight with readers each Wednesday.


Today, Stan looks at some of the nicknames used by hockey teams that have played in Seattle, where the NHL's 32nd franchise will begin play in the 2021-22 season.

Tod Leiweke, CEO of Seattle's yet unnamed NHL franchise, is a popular guy these days. Just about everyone wants to offer him a nickname for the League's soon-to-be 32nd team.

Leiweke told the NHL Board of Governors in early December that the League's newest franchise, set to begin play in the 2021-22 season, could announce its nickname, logo and colors as early as next month. Producing a name should not be a problem -- after all, Seattle has a lengthy hockey history that includes a variety of nicknames.

If Leiweke and his bosses want to go the historic route, they could name the team the Seattle Metropolitans in honor of the 1917 Stanley Cup champions, the first United States-based team to win hockey's biggest prize. To honor Seattle's more recent history, they could consider Eskimos, Seahawks, Boilermakers, Bombers or Totems. Each of those was used by one of the assortment of teams that played in Seattle from the 1920s into the 1970s.

Seattle has a long history of solid amateur leagues. The City Hockey League had high-level hockey in the 1930s and early 1940s before yielding to the Pacific Coast Hockey League in 1944. The 1937-38 league champion was the Shurfine Groceries Hockey Club (though the team is long gone, Shurfine products are still carried in Seattle-area stores).

During the early 1940s, when the Seattle-based Boeing aircraft company was producing the B-17 Flying Fortress, the Seattle Boeing Bombers played one season (1943-44) in the Western International Hockey League. The Seattle Stars, who played in the PCHL during the 1944-45 season, were sponsored by a local brewery.

Another Seattle firm engaged in World War II production was the Isacsson Iron Works. When the PCHL began its 1944-45 season, the Seattle Isacsson Iron Workers, who had played in the Northwest International Hockey League 1943-44, joined the new league and were renamed the Seattle Ironmen.

"It was one of the strongest teams ever to play in the Northwest," PCHL president George J. Campbell said at the time. "That was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt early in 1945."

By that time, the Ironmen not only dominated the PCHL but then faced the, the Boston Olympics, a Boston Bruins farm team that ruled the Eastern Amateur Hockey League. Led by future Hall of Fame defenseman Fern Flaman, the Olympics headed west to challenge the Ironmen for the United States Amateur Hockey Association championship.

Boston won the first two games, but the Ironmen took the next four and the title.

Covering the series for Jim Hendy's 1946 Hockey Guide, reporter Alex Shults called Frank Dotten and Al Rollins the prime heroes for the Seattle champs.

"Dotten not only coached the Ironmen," Shults wrote, "he played center on the first line and tallied 13 times in the postseason. Goalie Rollins, the flashy youngster, was an Ironmen mainstay."

Rollins went on to win the Stanley Cup and Vezina Trophy for the Toronto Maple Leafs, then won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player in 1953-54 while playing for the Chicago Black Hawks (then two words).

Over the years, many NHL players who had played in Seattle -- Larry Zeidel, Ken Daneyko and Mathew Barzal, among others -- wondered when the city would get an NHL team.

"Sooner or later, Seattle has to become an NHL city," Zeidel, a defenseman then with the Seattle Totems of the Western Hockey League, then a top minor league, told me when we spoke during the summer of 1964. "It's a tremendous hockey town."

Daneyko, now an analyst on New Jersey Devils telecasts and the NHL Network, seconded the motion when he was a mainstay on defense for the Devils, who selected him No. 18 in the 1982 NHL Draft after he finished the 1981-82 junior hockey season with the Seattle Breakers of the Western Hockey League. I got the same type of answer in 2017 while chatting with Barzal, a star center with Seattle's WHL team (now known as the Thunderbirds), who was then a rookie with the New York Islanders.

Their thoughts were emphatically reaffirmed when the NHL selected Seattle as its 32nd team in December 2018.

As for its eventual nickname, be it Totems, Ironmen, Metropolitans or something else, Leiweke will make it official in the not-too distant-future.

This much is certain: It won't be the Shurfine Groceries Hockey Club!

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